GORUCK Challenge: Mogadishu Mile AAR

GRC_1214

This past weekend I completed my sixth patched GORUCK event and my third GORUCK Challenge. Class 1214 was one of dozens of Mogadishu Mile historic events, in honor of the twenty-first anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu (aka Black Hawk Down). GORUCK is trying to do more events with a specific historic focus, with the Challenge fitting into the timeline of events being commemorated.

Class 1214 in Washington DC had 142 people signed up going into the event. Whether it was rain or other issues, only 97 people showed up for the Challenge.

Packing List

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This was the lightest I’ve packed for a Challenge. I know at this point that I don’t need much food or a change of clothes beyond socks. I brought an extra pair of work gloves and was glad I had, as I immediately gave them to my best friend Austin (aka Yakety Sax) who forgot his. I’d done a lot of work during training rucks and runs on my nutrition needs. I’ve moved away from Nuun as my primary source of electrolytes and switched to salt tabs, chia fresca (chia seeds, coconut water, lime juice and honey), and old fashioned water. I’d say I still over-packed on food but it ended up not mattering much, as you’ll see in a minute.

The list is color coded – I used the things in dark green. The things in light green I used, but barely. I didn’t use things in orange and the things in yellow – all my food – we were forced to surrender at the start of the Challenge. The historical Operation Gothic Serpent was a prisoner capture mission that was meant to least not more than an hour or so. As a result, the Delta and Rangers who were on it largely went out into the field short on supplies like food, water and night vision goggles. Our class gave up our food, which was put into a kit bag and carried throughout the Challenge, with only a couple periods of access for us to eat from it. And to be clear, people over pack on food. The full kit bag probably weighed over 100 pounds at the start.

I know everyone has their own take on footwear and foot care, but I can’t speak highly enough about the combination of Brooks Adrenalin ASR and Injini Coolmax toe socks. Add in Trail Toes prior to putting the socks on and it was a complete success. My feet felt dry throughout and I had zero issues with blisters or hot spots.

I packed a slightly stripped down Rogue Dynamics Trauma1 foot care kit. Though it went unused during the event (I’d previously stripped out some of the items in the kit, as there was no way I’d use all of its contents in one 12-15 hour event), I was glad to have it. Past Challenges or long rucks have always produced blisters and discomfort for me. Even better, Logan from Rogue Dynamics had the kits I ordered drop shipped to me to ensure I got them promptly. It was a nice move, well beyond my expectations.

At past GORUCK events, I’ve found use for a knife and a pen – but not this time. I’ve also dealt with a broken drinking valve for my water bladder in the past and wanted redundancy here. Fortunately it went unused. I didn’t waste a lot of weight on unused items, but as you can see, I clearly could have shave a few ounces by taking less.

Welcome Party & Teams

As with any other GORUCK Challenge, the event started with a Welcome Party. Ours was cut somewhat short due to a “friendly neighbor” calling the cops on us for being in a public park after dark. Nonetheless we had a quick smoke session consisting mostly of pushups and flutter kicks before moving out to another park for another quick smoke session of overhead press, mountain climbers, bear crawls, and an ungodly amount of burpees. Every time I do a GORUCK event, I go through my darkest moments during the welcome party. Every time I swear to myself that if I do another one, I’ll spend more time training PT exercises – especially pushups – while wearing a ruck. And this time, as with all other times, I totally slacked on my PT with a ruck on. And I paid for it. I was fortunate that it was relatively short and once we were done, I was good to go the rest of the way, with my demons left behind in Rose and Montrose Parks.

Traditionally when you have a large group for a Challenge, the whole class is split into smaller teams (usually of around 30 people) that spend most of the time apart. There were four cadre present for our event, so presumably we would have had teams of 35 had everyone showed up, or 24 with those who did. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, we never split up. We remained one group of 97 people throughout the 14 hour event. It’s the largest unbroken class I’ve ever heard of in a GORUCK Challenge (but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before).

Movements & Casualties

Starting in Georgetown, we made our way to Glover Park. Along the way, we had about 25% casualties – meaning we had to buddy carry people. We also had plenty of other coupons – team weights as well as gifts from the cadre ranging from 25lb sand bags to logs and cement parking bumps. Throughout our class had plenty of added weights and plenty of casualties. Our movements started out very stop and go, but over time we got some decent systems for dealing with our weights.

We ended up on the Georgetown campus and spent a whole lot of time getting put to work there. One event was a circular route of stair cases near what I think is the library. We had to do five laps in 25 minutes. On lap four, someone on a team that was carrying a cement parking bumper walked into a cadre and didn’t apologize. That bought us an extra lap, with no extra time. We made the time hack, even with the penalty lap and were rewarded with a break to refill water bladders.

From the stairs we went to an astroturf sports field. It had been raining for the entirety of the Challenge and the turf was soaked like a sponge. We were given a mission low crawl from one side of the pitch to the other (probably 150-200 meters) and move all over our team weights in 12 minutes. For 100 people to low crawl with rucks on that distance, it’s probably a 12 minute task at minimum. Moving the weights made it even harder. We had a system where we sent some people going before starting to send the weights. It wasn’t a particularly smart system and before long, we were just booking it as best we good. It was stop and go and very wet and after a while…we were barely half way across the pitch. By the time we were done it had taken over 33 minutes and I don’t think we’d even gotten everyone or everything across.

We were told we’d have to try it again, only this time we’d bear crawl instead of low crawl. We had a bit of a better system this time, though half way through some of the peanut gallery thought they had better ideas than our team leads and things more or less broke apart. I won’t give away what did or didn’t work, but our time hack was 23:30 and we finished in 23:23, saving us from having to do it again using low crawls.

Food

The Challenge started at 9pm. The time from I’d say 10:30pm to around 4am went by in what felt like twenty minutes. All of a sudden we were having a break and had the option of grabbing some food from our over-stuffed kit bag. I had a small protein bar and grabbed a pack of gel shots for later. Throughout the entire event, I had 5 salt tablets, a protein bar of unknown brand that was about 200 calories, a handful of peanut M&Ms, a single bite size Snickers, and a pack of Clif shot bloks. And I was fine. In the future, I don’t think I’d bring more than this (or, about half of what I’d actually packed for myself). Each time I ate, I felt real value from it, but I wasn’t particularly hungry at any point. When I ate the protein bar, I really had to force myself – I didn’t like the taste, but knew having the energy would help.

More Movements

From the Georgetown campus, we went down to the Georgetown waterfront, got wet in a fountain, and made our way to the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial. Along the way we picked up a whole bunch more weights to carry and we slowed to a crawl under the new weights. Communication breakdowns lead to us losing strap privileges and then further communications breakdowns lead to us having to carry our rucks with only one hand (and still no straps). But we made it to the Lincoln around 7am, just as the sun was starting to rise.

Mogadishu Mile

During the Black Hawk Down incident, American troops spent nearly 18 hours waging a non-stop gun battle against Habr Gidr militia forces in Mogadishu. Eventually the embattled Rangers, Deltas and other Special Operations forces were met by an armored convoy from the 10th Mountain Division along with Malaysian and Pakistani troops as part of the UN mission. This convoy was intended to safely carry the Rangers to a rally point outside the city. But the convoy was overcrowded and the Rangers and Deltas decided to provide ground support for the vehicles on the way out – basically walking alongside to ensure there were no further ambushes. Due to a miscommunication, the armored convoy basically floored it out of Mogadishu, leaving the Rangers and Deltas on their own to sprint out of the city, while waging a pitched gun battle. This run, done after nearly a full day of unbroken combat, is referred to as the “Mogadishu Mile.”

Class 1214’s final task was to do our own Mogadishu Mile on the National Mall – from the Lincoln to the Capitol. Things seemed to start great, with us staying close together and helping a few slower team members. But we weren’t fast enough and we got loaded down with all the coupons we’d previously had, plus about 40% casualties. Long story short, it ended up taking us four hours to make it to the Capitol and the end of our mission.

Final Thoughts

This was the most fun I had in a Challenge. I’m not sure exactly why, but no small part of it may be because I convinced my best friend to do it with me. I had a good time rucking with him and watching him succeed in the event.

Other than getting my ass kicked doing pushups in the welcome party, I felt pretty great throughout the rest, even during other PT sessions, low crawling and bear crawling. I wasn’t bothered by any injuries or blisters. I had concerns going in about my wrists, which have taken a bit of a beating weight lifting the last few months, but never really bothered me until the very end.

I prepared for this Challenge primarily by doing crossfit the last five months, as well as doing at least one ruck and one run per week. The training runs and rucks were done on the hilly trails of Rock Creek Park. Whereas in the past all of my training rucks have been done on relatively flat, paved trails around DC, these trails are very hill, all dirt and often irregular. I think working the hills really helped build up strength under the ruck.

Crossfit undoubtedly helped me do this event from a place of good overall fitness. I can’t really place it but I did just feel stronger throughout than I have in any other GORUCK Challenges. I also felt the best later that night and the next day than I’ve felt after any other Challenges. I wasn’t too sore, to the point that I was back in my crossfit box on Monday, ready to go.

I’m not sure when I will next do a GORUCK Challenge, but I’m very glad I did this one and strongly encourage any readers who are thinking about signing up to go ahead and do it. You won’t regret it!

GORUCK Light Class 043: Massanutten, VA

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GORUCK Light Class 043 – Photo by Kit Klein

Late last month I completed my first GORUCK Light as part of Class 043 in Massanutten, Virginia. For those not familiar, GORUCK Light (GRL) is a shorter version of the GORUCK Challenge (GRC), meant to be more accessible to participants. While the GORUCK Challenge bills itself as 8-10 hours and 15-20 miles, the Light is billed as only 4-5 hours and 7-10 hours. Of course for both events the motto of “Under Promise, Over Deliver” still applies.

Instead the more common motto emerging for GORUCK Light is that “Light ≠ Easy.” Within the GORUCK Tough (GRT) community, early reports were that the only thing light about it was the sky. Since most GRCs start at 1am, compared to most GRLs starting at 7am, this seemed apt to me.

If you want a good background on what to expect from a GORUCK Light, check out this video on their site or this post on the GORUCK News section. The generally gist of these is that Light is for everyone, that it’s much more fun and easier than a Challenge and people should try one. Which is all true.

Class 043 was unique in that it was open only to people who are signed up for the GORUCK Nasty 001 obstacle course in September. I’d guess that about 85-90% of our class of forty-five were GRTs. The course is at the Massanutten ski area in Virginia. The whole GRL was spent on the slopes of the ski mountain.

A traditional GORUCK Challenge usually starts with the Welcome Party – a PT session that can run one to two hours that forces the class to start working as a team, instead of as individuals. The GORUCK Light Welcome Party for Class 043 was much more of a party, complete with singing songs off-key.

In hindsight, the GRL Class 043 Welcome Party reminded me a lot of the old Jerry Seinfeld joke about whenever guys hug, they slap each other on the back, as if to say, “Sure, I’m hugging you…but I’m hitting you.” The Welcome Party was on a rocky hill and consisted of a lot of low crawling and staying in a high forward leaning rest. Oh plus some inchworm pushups. There was nothing easy about it. Between the work we had to do and the heat, I ended up pretty well smoked (the temperature was in the low/mid 90s, there was no shade on the ski slopes and it was soupy hot with the humidity).

After getting a cooling dunk in a nearby stream, we moved on to put a couple of Nasty obstacles through the paces. This was effectively the biggest down time of the entire GORUCK Light, as only one person could go over the obstacle at a time. By the time our class was done with the second obstacle, I’d recovered from the Welcome Party and felt ready to handle whatever was thrown at us.

It turned out, up next was the heading up the ski slope. We were slow getting organized and took a bunch of casualties – that is, we had to buddy carry a good portion of the class up the hill. By the time we reached the next time hack, people were pretty hot again & this lead to us getting put in the water again. When it feels like it’s in the upper 90s and you’re carrying 35 pounds on your back, plus lots of extra coupons, cold water is a truly great thing.

our-log

Class 043’s telephone pole. Photo by Kit Klein.

This was about the time that we our log – in this case, a full-on telephone pole. I’ve only ever had regular, old fashioned, irregular, knobby, nail-filled logs in my Challenges. The upside of a telephone pole is that it’s even all the way around. The downside is that it’s a damn telephone pole. We spent a whole lot of time under the log. Down the hill, up the hill, across the hill, up the hill, down the hill. It wasn’t the longest time I’ve had to move a log around at a GORUCK event, but my shoulders ended up more trashed than ever before.

Eventually we were able to get rid of the log and were told our final task was to get up to the summit of the mountain in a thirty minute time hack. We were given a choice between taking a mile-plus service road or going head on at it, straight up the chair lift line. In what was surely a sign that we were collectively suffering from mental failures due to the heat,  we choose the direct approach. We made it up, but it was pretty rough on a few people at this point. Lots of people were fighting the heat and dehydration. I had to deal with cramps in my quads, calves and stomach, though I just kept hydrating and kept moving as best I could.

When we were done, we were awarded our GORUCK Light patches and a great view of the surrounding area from the summit. The event took a bit over five hours – far shorter than a regular Challenge, but the class did some serious work in it.

We had three cadre for the outsized class – GORUCK founder Jason McCarthy, Cadre Chris and Cadre Devin. One thing that I want to say is how great the cadre were at keeping us hydrated. We refilled water bladders & bottles as a class three times. By the time I was done, I’d drank at least three full 100 ounce bladders of Nuun-boosted water. And I was still fighting off cramps from the heat at the end. I can’t imagine how much worse we would have fared without diligent oversight by the cadre.

The question when it comes to GORUCK Light is how it compares to a full GORUCK Challenge. I’d put it this way: the GRL was easier than than either of the Challenges I’ve done because those extra hours are a lot of work, with a lot more time where you have to fight your demons and doubts.

That said,  when I was done with five-plus hours of the GRL, I probably couldn’t have gone another seven hours to get to normal Challenge length. I was smoked. While the Light was easier than either of the Challenges I’ve completed, there was no one five hour stretch in my Challenges that were as hard as the five hours of Light Class 043.

In the Challenges I’ve done or seen while shadowing, there are periods of intense work followed usually by periods of moving long distances. Sure a lot of the movement has added weight, but there are stretches where you get to catch your breath as you find a rhythm to move forward over the miles. If you’re fighting cold or blisters or injury, traveling far distances in a Challenge can be brutally hard physically and mentally taxing. But they’re still a break in intensity.

Light Class 043 had almost no breaks in intensity, except when we were climbing over the two test obstacles and another point of doing pull ups. Other than that, it was non-stop go, with heavy weight and steep hills.

Going into the GORUCK Light, I thought a lot about Cadre Jason relating his experience of leading a Challenge in Okinawa with a class made up primarily of Force Recon Marines (read: some serious tough dudes). There are people in the GRT community who do back-to-back Challenges – something which is an undoubtedly tough thing to do. At the end of the Challenge in Okinawa, Jason asked the Recon Marines if anyone wanted to go out again in a few hours to complete the back-to-back. No one said yes, because they had all given everything they had in them to get through the one Challenge.

I knew the Light was going to be significantly shorter and thus easier than the GRCs I’d done. But I went into it with the intention of being truly smoked when I was done. Between the work we did and the heat we did it in, I was. I don’t say this to sound tough – it’s just that a way to ensure that a Light isn’t easy is to give it everything you can. Everyone will give a different amount, but it adds up to the total the team can get done together – that’s the beauty of GORUCK events.

If you’re thinking about doing a GORUCK Light, go for it. You can finish it and you’ll have a lot of fun while doing it. And hopefully, it will make you want to go out and earn a GORUCK Tough patch for finishing a full-on Challenge.

All photos by Kit Klein of GORUCK. See the full photo set from GRL Class 043 on flickr

Life Edited Apartment

This is probably the best designed small apartment I’ve ever seen.

Via Huckberry.

Jerry Seinfeld on writing jokes


The article this is based around on Seinfeld is pretty fantastic.

Doing Instagram Right

Great video, great guide.

Changing things up

One of the things that I know about my body is that it responds well to frequent changes in workouts and doing things I’ve never done before. Sadly I also know that tend to get into workout habits which leads to diminished results. To help me change things up, I’ll often just search around the internet for crossfit-type workouts. I don’t really do crossfit, but find that periodically mixing in workouts that come from crossfit works well for me.

The other day I stumbled upon The WOD Shop, which looks like it will be a regular resource for me. It randomly displays Workouts of the Day (WOD) for users. I played around a bit and found two that looked like they’d fit well in combination.

Part I

3 Rounds, 22 – 16 – 10x reps

Kettlebell Front Squat (2x 36#)
Bent Row (2x 36#)
Pushup

Part II

Every Minute On The Minute (until failure)

Kettlebell Snatch

For Every Minute On The Minute exercises, you start with a certain number of reps. It could be one, I did four to start. You have one minute to complete that many reps, adding one each round. If you fail to get it done in time, sit it out for a round, then try again and keep going until you fail.

 

A Cadre Workout

Here’s a good GORUCK Challenge training workout, courtesy of Cadre Chris.

With a weighted ruck:
Buy in: 800m ruck run
Then…
15 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)
5 – push ups
10 – flutter kicks (4 count) with ruck on chest (don’t let it touch the ground!)
15 – Air squats

Every 4 rounds do 10 wall balls (Ruck thrusters if you don’t have a medicine ball)

GOAL: get 12 rounds minimum
AMRAP starts right after the 800m run…

This is a great workout and really good preparation for the welcome party PT session at the start of a GORUCK Challenge. If you’re training for a Challenge, I definitely recommend mixing this workout in.

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